Austrian university develops 'inflatable' concrete dome method

A new method cuts concrete dome construction costs in half (or more).

All photos courtesy of the Vienna University of Technology.
June 12, 2014

Constructing a concrete dome is a costly process, but this may change soon. A team from the Vienna University of Technology has developed a method that allows concrete domes to form with the use of air and steel cables instead of expensive, timber supporting structures.

“[We have] developed a method that can cut costs to around 50 percent,” says Benjamin Kromoser, an instructor at the university’s Institute of Structural Engineering.

The technique is named the “Pneumatic Wedge Method.” First, segments of flat, standard concrete slabs are laid out on top of an air cushion with wedge-shaped spaces left between each.

Once the slab is hardened, the cushion is inflated and a steel cable is tightened around the segments, so that the concrete is lifted up at the center and pushed together from outside. This process can be seen in this timelapse, German language video:

 

 

Kromoser compares the resulting structure to a snail, a thin shell that can support a lot of weight (such as five feet of snow).

The technique has been patented and the team is optimistic that the new construction method will establish itself in the market. As of now, the Austrian Federal Railways have commissioned a design project using this new method for a deer pass over two high speed rail tracks in the Austrian state of Carinthia.

 

Visit the Vienna University of Technology's official website to learn more about the method.

         
 

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